I have a confession to make. I can spend a lot of time in panic mode. In most cases I manage to downgrade my panic to more of a low-level anxiety, but whenever I embark on new projects or know that something major is on the line, panic can be a close companion of mine.
My first inclination when I feel the panic rise is to stuff it back down, like an inappropriate relative who pops up at a gathering to say embarrassing things in front of the guests. I keep smiling and nodding and speaking over my panic, as though by pretending that it's not there, it will decide to go away. Sometimes it does. Usually, though, it's simply biding it's time, waiting for the moment when my attention is turned elsewhere.
Panic particularly likes to visit me at night. It waits until I'm asleep and then when the cat jumps on the bed and wakes me a little, or my husband elbows me in the side and I start to emerge from dreams, Panic is waiting there, ready to pounce.
Lately, instead of trying to send the panic away, I've been trying to make friends with it. I will say to myself, "Ah-this is a GOOD thing. When panic visits, this means I'm going outside of my comfort zone." Then I will try to talk to it, to learn more about where the panic is coming from. Is it because I haven't prepared enough for something? Or maybe it's because I'm allowing a project to evolve in a way that isn't going to work well and I need to revisit what I'm doing?
Sometimes the arrival of panic is merely a reminder that I'm a perfectionist and a control freak and that I need to let go of both of those aspects of my personality if I want something really great and creative to evolve. The clutch in my chest and the frisson of anxiety that courses through my body aren't really indicative of any problems with what I'm doing. Instead, they are remnants of self-doubt and worry that need to be dealt with firmly, as you would an unruly child who insists on interrupting the party.
I think we all deal with panic in its various guises and each of us has to find our own way. Panic seems particularly prone to arrive when we're learning new things or when the stakes seem really high (notice I say "seem"--our brains have a way of making everything seem "high-stake"). The challenge is to find ways to channel and use our anxiety.
How do you deal with panic? How do you use it for good in your life?